Mouth and throat problems

Radiation therapy is often used to treat cancer in the mouth, throat, neck or upper chest region. Depending on the area treated, radiation therapy may affect your mouth and teeth. This can make eating and swallowing difficult and change your sense of taste.

Treatment to the mouth may increase the chance of tooth decay or other problems in the future. You will need to have a dental checkup before treatment starts and regular check-ups after it finishes.

If you’re seeing a dental specialist, such as an orthodontist, ask if they can liaise with your usual dentist about any work you need to have before radiation therapy starts. Your dentist can give you detailed instructions about caring for your mouth to help prevent tooth decay and deal with side effects such as mouth sores.

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Dryness and other issues

After several weeks of treatment, your mouth or throat may become dry and sore, and your voice may become hoarse. Radiation therapy can affect your salivary glands so you produce less saliva, which can contribute to the dry mouth. These effects will gradually improve after treatment finishes, but it may take several weeks or even months. In some cases, the effects may improve but not completely disappear.

You may have thick phlegm in your throat, or a lump-like feeling that makes it hard to swallow. Food may also taste different. Taste changes may last for many months after treatment, but normal taste usually returns eventually.


Tips for managing mouth and throat problems

  • If possible, have a dental check-up before treatment begins with a dentist who specialises in the effect radiation therapy has on teeth.
  • Keep your mouth moist by sucking on ice chips and sipping cool drinks. Carry a bottle of water with you.
  • Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for information about artificial saliva to moisten your mouth.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol, as they will irritate your mouth and make dryness worse.
  • If chewing and swallowing are painful, try to consume more liquids or soft food. Talk to a dietitian, who can suggest nourishing foods that will not hurt your mouth.
  • If you have trouble swallowing, ask your doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist.
  • To manage taste changes, try different ways of preparing food. For example, add lemon juice to meat and vegetables, marinate foods or add spices.
  • Talk to your doctor if eating is uncomfortable or difficult. If you are in pain, ask for pain medicine, which may help with swallowing.
  • Rinse your mouth regularly using an alcohol-free mouthwash recommended by your doctor or dentist. Saltwater is a natural disinfectant – you can make a saltwater mouthwash at home by dissolving ¼ teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water. Rinse your mouth with plain water afterwards.
  • For more on this, call 13 11 20 or see Mouth Health and Cancer Treatment.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Understanding Radiation Therapy.


Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in December 2017
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Mouth health and cancer treatment
Here we look at the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery or a combination of treatments that affect the mouth area.

Read more at https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-information/managing-cancer-side-effects/mouth-health-and-cancer-treatment/#bOGDVTrY1JvFSPtK.99

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